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Credit Card Users Being Charged with Shorter Grace Periods, Higher Late Fees

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RALEIGH — Credit card bills can take a big chunk out of your budget. Now, some credit card companies are making a change that could cost you more.

Many of us get new credit card offers in the mail promising a lower interest rate.

"It's competition. It's competition with interest rates, competition with customers," says Rebekah O'Connel, a consumer credit counselor.

While you may benefit from the lower percentage rate, you're not benefiting from the latest practice many companies are banking on.

Many credit card companies are shortening the amount of time you have to pay your bill. Forget 30 days. Some companies are only giving customers three weeks to pay up. And when they don't pay on time, the companies are cashing in on $20 to $30 late fees.

The practice is catching many people off guard.

"You could really get hit with some fees and interest and late fees that you certainly never expected. Also, it makes it tougher to get those payments in on time. You don't have that full month anymore," says O'Connel.

The policy especially affects consumers who use several credit cards. Michelle Parham says she is feeling the credit crunch.

"I may get my bill, maybe in a week, and it's due the following week," says the credit card user.

Parham says the shorter billing period is putting a major squeeze on her finances since she gets paid every two weeks.

"You don't have the money [because] you haven't gotten paid," says Parham.

Credit counselors say before accepting a credit card offer, make sure you read the fine print. O'Connel's best advice is to look elsewhere when offers come flooding in.

"What they should look for is the trash can," recommends O'Connel.

Credit counselors say in just one year they've seen the number of people come in for debt counseling almost double.

Triangle Family Services offers assistance in managing debt free of charge. For more information or to set up an appointment, call800-283-6904.

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Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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